Around the middle of last month, a Washington Post columnist tweeted that this past March was the first March since 2002 where there wasn’t a school shooting in the United States. The columnist in question is a sports reporter. I’m not familiar with the man’s work but I’m sure he does a fine job on the sports beat. After all, this wouldn’t be the first time a WaPo reporter commented on something that was outside of his field. (Now there’s a deep cut for longtime readers.)
Anyway, as with most statistical claims that are made about school shootings, it depends on how you define a school shooting. My definition of a school shooting is typically when a student or outsider storms a school, armed with guns, with the express purpose of killing as many victims as possible. The columnist in question relied on Everytown for Gun Safety as one of his sources. In my opinion, Everytown has a habit of overinflating their numbers. In the past, Everytown has defined a school shooting as “any time a firearm discharges a live round inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds.” So basically, if a gun is discharged in the same zip code as a school they consider it a school shooting. Of course, I’m being hyperbolic but you get the idea.
After reading about this claim I went back into the archives of this site to see if every March had a US school shooting. I had nothing listed from 2002-2004. In 2005, there was the shooting at Red Lake High School where nine people were killed. In 2006, there was a shooting at Pine Middle School in Reno, Nevada where two students were injured. I have no shootings listed between 2007-2010. In 2011, there was a shooting at Martinsville West Middle School in Martinsville, Indiana where one student was severely injured. Then I have nothing between 2012-2017. In 2018, a gun accidentally discharged at Huffman High School in Birmingham, Alabama killing a 17-year-old girl. Then nothing for 2019 and, of course, 2020. So in 18 years of Marches, I have four actual shootings.
Now I realize I’m not exactly a professional archivist so I went to Wikipedia to see what they had listed for the past 18 Marches. It turns out they also had a number of Marches that didn’t have a school shooting and some of the ones they did I wouldn’t consider school shootings. Even the FBI says that there have been several Marches since 2002 that haven’t had school shootings.
So why is a gun control advocate like myself disputing this claim? There are two reasons. The first is if you claim everything is a school shooting then nothing is a school shooting. We’ve already seen not only politicians but everyday citizens become numb to the occurrences of school shootings. The second reason is that if you make outlandish claims like this it makes it easy for the ‘responsible’ gun owners and related lobbyists to poke holes in those claims which in turn pushes back any gun control progress.
The numbers don’t need to be exaggerated. There’s been enough murder and violence committed against children for the past 21 years to fill a decent-sized graveyard. The names of those victims should be enough to bring us closer to a gun resistant society.